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Politics & Government

Redlining’s legacy: How discriminatory housing policies continue to shape Michigan’s metro areas

In the 1930s, property assessors graded American cities on a four-point scale, with the worst neighborhoods coded red, giving birth to the term "redlining."
Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America
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Creative Commons
In the 1930s, property assessors graded American cities on a four-point scale, with the worst neighborhoods coded red, giving birth to the term "redlining."

The legacy of discrimination against people of color and discrimination against certain religions is powerfully present in Michigan cities to this day.

A new data investigation from Bridge Magazine's Mike Wilkinson analyzed a series of housing maps produced by the Home Owners Loan Corporation and later used by the Federal Housing Administration. Wilkinson examined maps of nine cities across the state.

The maps show how the New Deal-era federal agencies rated the riskiness of awarding loans to homeowners based on their neighborhood using blatant racial biases.

"Back then, there was a school of thought by some of the best academics in the nation at the time, that felt you could gauge a neighborhood’s risk by whether there were those elements, the undesirables," Wilkinson said on Stateside.

Joe T. Darden, an author and professor of geography at Michigan State University, explained how the legacy of redlining in the 1930s is still present today.

"Whenever we talk about the issue of discrimination, we have to look at it first from the ideology of white supremacy, which is deeply engrained in white American culture in the United States," Darden said. "As long as that ideology exists, and there are those that wish to implement that ideology, you get discrimination as a result of that."

Control of institutions that make housing decisions has been in white hands for most of American history, Darden added.

Listen to both conversations above.

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